Snowdrop: Alternate January Flower

COMMON NAME:   Snowdrop
GENUS:   Galanthus
Species, Hybrids, Cultivars:
G. nivalis  “Atkinsil”-blooms very early; large flowers. G.n. “Flore Pleno”-double flowers. G.n. “Lutescens”-yellow markings. G.n. “Simplex”-single flowers. G.n. “S. Arnott”-taller with fragrant large flowers.
FAMILY:   Amaryllidaceae
BLOOMS: Winter
TYPE:  Perennial
DESCRIPTION:  Snowdrops are tiny, growing only to a height of 3 to 4 inches. This allows them to be buried in late heavy snows and survive with no hard feelings. The flowers are small, white, and drooping.
CULTIVATION:  Plant snowdrop bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep in early fall. They prefer a slightly shaded area with rich soil and plenty of moisture. After they flower, lift them, divide the bulbs, and replant them immediately. Snowdrops look wonderful naturalized in a woodland setting or at the base of trees in the lawn but remember that they spread slowly.
The common name, snowdrop, refers to the color of the flower and its resemblance to a teardrop earring. The color of the flower is also responsible for its genus name. Galanthus, which is the Greek word for “milk flower.” The species name nivalis is also from Greek and means “near the snow line.” This is quite appropriate, for its native habitat is alpine areas of Europe and Asia.
Because it is a harbinger of spring and a sign of returning life, snowdrop is considered sacred and is a symbol of purity and chastity in many European countries. It is considered a herb of the Virgin Mary. In early spring, the image of Mary was removed from church altars and snowdrop blossoms were scattered in its place. Snowdrop has become the floral symbol for the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin on February 2, also known as Candlemas Day. A poem from An Early Calendar of English flowers begins, “The Snowdrop, in purest white arraie, First rears her hedde on Candlemas Daie.”
In the Victorian language of flowers, snowdrop is the symbol of hope and consolation, and, it is the English floral emblem for January.
In some English countries superstition held that if you carried even a single blossom of snowdrop, primrose, or violet into the house when they first began to bloom, you would have bad luck. Snowdrop in the house has been called a death token. The reason? English housewives said that the snowdrop blossoms looked like  “a corpse in its shroud and that it always kept itself close to the earth, seeming to belong more to the dead than the living.”
The fact that snowdrop blooms so early in the growing season has given rise to many common names, including Fair Maid of February, and perce-neige, French for piercing the snow.
Snowdrop is marvelous for bringing indoors in early spring {if you aren’t superstitious}. Simply dig up a clump, enjoy the blossoms indoors, and then replant it in the garden when it is through blooming.

One Comment on “Snowdrop: Alternate January Flower

  1. I seriously did not know that about snowdrops. I have noticed that they are a popular flower to write about. They are uncommon here. There is another flower known as snowdrops, but it is not as refined looking. We know the wild onion as wild snowdrops as well

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